Razor's edge is dull

Maple Leafs goalie Andrew Raycroft allows the first of four goals against the Sabres Tuesday night....

Maple Leafs goalie Andrew Raycroft allows the first of four goals against the Sabres Tuesday night. (Sun Media/Stan Behal)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

The trade deadline came and went at 3 p.m. yesterday afternoon, leaving many Maple Leafs relieved to still be wearing blue and white.

Or were they?

About six hours later, Bryan McCabe and Andrew Raycroft might have been having second thoughts about that after being targeted by the fans at the Air Canada Centre during a moribund 6-1 loss to the injury-plagued Buffalo Sabres last night.

After his sloppy turnover led to Buffalo's third goal, McCabe was jeered each time he touched the puck for the remainder of the game, a reception usually reserved for Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson when he's in town.

That the bitter crowd would give one of their own heroes such treatment is a reflection of their disappointment.

They have good reason. The Leafs are just 12-14-5 at home and trail the MontrealCanadiens by three points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

"It's hard to block (the boos) out," McCabe said. "It's rough. It always seems to be someone but it's really the first time it has happened to me."

Asked if his four-year, $28.75-million US contract played a role, McCabe shrugged his shoulders.

"I have no idea what (the crowd) thinks," he said. "They pay their money, they can do what they want."

Mats Sundin and Hal Gill were quick to come to the defence of their beleaguered teammates.

"Bryan McCabe is our best player on and off the ice," Sundin said. "He is truly a leader in this room and should be supported."

Gill, who has absorbed his own fair share of boos from the home fans this season, agreed.

"I don't understand where the fans are coming from," he said. "How about showing some support? That's a basic rule of FAN 101."

Raycroft, meanwhile, received a strong dose of Bronx cheers after allowing four goals on 11 shots before being replaced by J-S Aubin for the third period.

It marked the second consecutive game and third in the past five Raycroft has been hooked. He was yanked midway through the Leafs' 5-4 loss to Montreal Monday after being beaten five times on 16 shots.

For the record, Raycroft has been lit up for nine goals in the past 27 shots he has faced, numbers sure to ignite cries of a goalie controversy.

"What am I supposed to do -- buy up all 20,000 tickets and give them to my friends and family?" he said. "(Tonight) was ugly all around, but we've played too good to get down on ourselves."

Truth be told, the Leafs had no excuses last night.

When star forward Daniel Briere was scratched just before the opening faceoff, the Sabres were left with eight regulars out of the lineup.

Yet with Briere, Chris Drury, Paul Gaustad, TimConnolly, Jaroslav Spacek, Ales Kotalik, Daniel Paille and Maxim Afinogenov all sidelined for the visitors, the Leafs still could not come out ahead of a Buffalo team that featured six callups from the American Hockey League's Rochester Americans.

REPORT CARD

D Forwards: Created plenty of pressure against Ryan Miller but had difficulty finishing, a recurring problem this season.

D Defence: Limited Buffalo's shots, but had difficulty clearing rebounds in front of Andrew Raycroft.

D Goaltending: A struggling Raycroft has suddenly been stricken with a very bad case of the February blahs.


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